Torture Killer - Swarm - Metal Blade Records 2006
Running Time: 34:41
Torture Killer's 2003 debut came at a time when I was just about sick of all the "progressive death" that was flooding the scene back then. I won't name names, but it seems like every Tom, Dick, and Harry was consumed with the overwhelming urge to become the next Meshuggah. For Maggots To Devour was just the bare-bones, primitive skullfuck I needed to combat the sea of eight-string guitars and 7/16 time signatures that threatened to drown us all. Fast-forward to 2006, and Torture Killer's sophomore album is upon us. This isn't a mere "sophomore album", however, in that one notable lineup change has the whole of the metal community watching and either praying for success or expecting failure. Sure, Torture Killer got their share of heat for coming off as a Six Feet Under ripoff, but who expected them to go out and snag Chris Barnes as a full-time member? Certainly not I, and I must confess that I had my reservations for that reason. The man's political posturing notwithstanding, I just hoped the dreaded one would stick to the gore, and not turn TK into SFU2.
The opening riff of the title track sounds like a thousand wasps trapped in your hollowed-out cranium, and pissed to no end. Torture Killer never claimed to be speed metal, and most of the time, the band plows along at a steady pace. The first actual song, 'Forever Dead', proves that maybe Barnes has some life left in his rotted metal soul. His vocals here sound more energetic than they have in years, and the anvil-heavy guitar duo of Laine and Karppinen seem to be focused on the singular mission of blasting your head from your shoulders. Sometimes the straightforward approach works best, and Torture Killer are definitely of the opinion that a swinging Cro-Magnon's club gets the message across far better than sleuth and sneak attacks. The pendulemic riffery beginning 'A Funeral For The Masses' is the stuff homicidal circle pits are made of, and damned if Barnes doesn't actually use vocal inflection to deliver quite possibly the best performance (in my opinion) of his career, Cannibal Corpse/SFU included. A couple of the faster moments of Swarm can be found in the frantic one-two punch of 'Multiple Counts Of Murder', and 'Obsessed With Homicide', the latter standing out on the album, and is sure to silence all the "SFU clone" accusations of the band's detractors. The ending third of 'Sadistic' finds skinsman Tuomo Latvala injecting a slight death'n'roll flavour into his performance, recalling parts of For Maggots... , and 'Cannibal Gluttony' kind of blows past without anything memorable, as does 'I Killed You', but 'Heading Towards The Butchery' spot-welds things back on track quite nicely, where they remain through the album closer 'A Violent Side Of Death'.
Thankfully, Chris "That Cookie Monster shit? I invented it!" Barnes approached this band as it deserved to be, with little thought for personal success, and led by the simple desire to churn out some eardrum-shredding death metal. You know that "one good album" all the older Cannibal fans that didn't follow to SFU hoped Barnes still had in him? Here it is. But don't for a second think that Barnes "made" this band. Torture Killer was a solid death band starting out, and the years between albums show marked improvement in both songwriting and focus. If For Maggots To Devour was a scattered shotgun blast, Swarm is a sniper rifle pointed at the base of your skull, prepared to sever it from your spinal column with one deadly shot.